Job 4: Eliphaz
November 4, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Job’s comforters” now begin to be introduced. They are infamous for their poor counsel, their insensitive treatment of Job in his suffering, and their self-righteous accusation of Job as having deserved what he got.
Yet, when you actually read what they say, you can’t help but think that we have heard this sort of thing said in our day—often, with applause when it is said. Job’s comforters, and their cold-comfort offered to Job, sound alarmingly like a lot of people today and what they say when others suffer. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of trying to give people in suffering the sort of advice that Job’s comforters gave Job. Read their words for evidence of how not to comfort a suffering person. Not everything they say is wrong; at times they appeal to clear truth about God and put it in poetic and evocative terms. But the overall direction of their argument is wrong, and damaging as well, if the suffering person takes it seriously. Fortunately, or better put providentially, Job is able to reply to their not-so-comforting words, and through it all is brought back to God—not by their advice, but by the presence of God himself.
In this chapter, we read the first half of Eliphaz’s advice. Eliphaz is basically telling Job two things. In chapter four, Eliphaz argues that because God is just—and no mortal is perfect—therefore, Job must have done something wrong to deserve what happened to him. Then in chapter five (as we shall see tomorrow), he argues that, therefore, the right thing for Job to do is to turn back to God and appeal to him for help to be restored again.
In chapter four, then, Eliphaz argues that because God is just, and no mortal is without sin, the calamities that have befallen Job must mean that Job has done something wrong. As he puts it in verse 17:
“Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?”
Now, if you are suffering, it could be that you are finding the same un-truth whispered in your ear, either by a human or tempting spirit. Surely you have done something wrong; that is why you are suffering so. But while it is true that some suffering is our own fault (for instance, if we receive a speeding ticket for speeding, then that ticket is our own fault for speeding), there are other times when suffering is not directly correlated with an individual sinful act. We live in a fallen world, and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. Sometimes, it seems that the righteous in particular suffer. As C.S. Lewis once put it, the reason why the righteous suffer is because only they can put up with it.
If then you are suffering, be assured that it might not be because you have done anything in particular wrong. That should genuinely comfort you and cause you not to run from God but run to him for help.
But if you are not suffering, this is an also important word. Do not assume that those who are less well-off than you, disadvantaged in some way, or in pain have necessarily done something wrong. Read the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man seemed to have everything going for him. But it was the poor Lazarus who was righteous and who entered eternity. What counts eternally is not the presence or absence of our temporal suffering, but the presence or absence of genuine faith in God. Don’t make someone feel guilty on top of their suffering. Avoid being a Job’s comforter, even of an Eliphaz kind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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